What to Know
- A World War II-era B-17 bomber crashed at Bradley Airport Wednesday, 5 minutes after taking off.
- Seven people were killed in the crash and eight others were injured.
- Several organizations are investigating, including the NTSB. A team of 10 NTSB staff will be in Connecticut for up to 10 days to investigate
State officials have identified the victims of the B-17 plane crash. Seven people killed when a 1944 World War II-era B-17 aircraft crashed at Bradley International Airport Wednesday morning.
Of the plane’s crew, the pilot, 75-year-old Ernest McCauley of Long Beach, Calif., and his co-pilot, 71-year-old Michael Foster of Jacksonville, Fla., are presumed deceased. The flight engineer, 34-year-old Mitchell Melton of Dalehart, Texas, was injured.
Five of the passengers are deceased or presumed deceased. They are 56-year-old David Broderick of West Springfield, Mass., 66-year-old Gary Mazzone of Broad Brook, 48-year-old James Roberts of Ludlow, Mass., 59-year-old Robert Riddell of East Granby, and 64-year-old Robert Rubner of Tolland.
The injured passenger are 36-year-old Andy Barrett of South Hadley, Mass., 62-year-old Linda Schmidt of Suffield, 62-year-old Tom Schmidt of Suffield, 48-year-old Joseph Huber of Tarriffville and 54-year-old James Traficante of Simsbury. An airport worker on the ground, 28-year-old Andrew Sullivan of Enfield, was also hurt.
A firefighter who responded to the crash suffered minor injuries and was treated on scene, state officials said Wednesday.
Gary Mazzone retired in January as a prosecutor's office inspector and previously was a Vernon police officer for 22 years.
Mazzone joined the Vernon Police Department on Aug. 2, 1976 and retired Sept. 23, 1998.
Vernon police said Mazzone retired from the state in January 2019.
Mazzone spent more than 42 years in law enforcement and Vernon police said he had a special relationship with Special Olympics Connecticut and is a member of their hall of fame.
Mazzone's son Brian said the family is trying to cope with the loss.
“I hate to say he died doing what he loved. But he kind of did.”
He described his father as an outdoorsman driven by his sense of adventure.
Brian said it was that sense of adventure and love of history that drew him to take the flight on board the B-17.
“I think he wanted to know what it felt like to be on one of those planes. Like people in World War II.”
Brian said Mazzone was gone too soon and the family is grieving.
“I just feel cheated. I feel cheated for everyone else. I feel cheated for my kids. My sister and my brother and stepsisters in my step mom everyone got cheated.”
Robert Riddell was an insurance company analyst at The Hartford He had posted photos from inside the plane before it took off. In a Facebook post Wednesday, his wife confirmed his death, describing Riddell as “the best person I’ve ever known” and a man who loved his family.
“Everything about to World War II he loved. He has a 1942 release for Jeep that he restored. He had an interest in the movies and documentaries," Debra Riddell told NBC Connecticut.
She took a video of Robert as he was about to board the plane Wednesday, not knowing it would be the last time she would see him.
“I want the world to know he was a good man. He died what he loves doing. I’m not happy he died doing it," she said.
Debra said Robert texted her from the plane just before the crash.
“He sent me a text message and said they telling us to get back to our seats and strap in. They were going back. So I sent him a ? And he wrote back one word. Turbulence.”
Moments later her worst fears came true.
“I saw this huge fireball and smoke. I knew I knew that plane had crashed. I could not believe it. I was in shock. I could not believe that that plane actually crashed," she said.
“He was an amazing father, grandfather, husband. I’m not saying that because I was married to him and I loved him. I’m saying that because that’s the person he was and everybody knows that," she added.
The Hartford released the following statement on Riddell's death:
“We are very saddened to learn of the passing of our longtime employee, Robert Riddell, in the crash yesterday at Bradley International Airport. We offer our condolences to his family and friends and to everyone affected by this tragedy.”
James Roberts worked at Hood and was a talented artist who hoped to one day publish a comic book.
“He was just a very good, caring person. He would help just about anybody. He loved Dragon Con. He was big into comics. He loved snowboarding and skiing and Red Sox,” his brother Joe said.
Joe said his brother, who went by Jim, had been really looking forward to the flight and tried to convince his other brothers to come along.
“My brother – he gets two days off a week – Sunday and Wednesday and he was really looking forward to this. He was just coming down here to have a good time and just didn’t come out of it,” Joe said.
Joe said when he heard about the crash he didn’t immediately realize his brother was on the plane, and when he learned the news scrambled for information. His brother is presumed dead, but investigators are still working to positively ID him through dental records.
“When I first saw the crash I said – you know I didn’t know my brother was on it - and said ‘that’s horrible.’ Then when I found out I got a really deep fear cuz I saw that fireball and it just…it’s just not good. You see a fire like that and you know it’s going to be a lot of…it’s amazing anyone got out,” Joe said.
“I just hope he didn’t suffer in that fire. That’s my nightmare it’s gonna be – it’s just a horrible way. I just hope it was very quick.”
Joe said he never imagined losing Jim, who is his younger brother, and that life without him is hard to face.
“We’d always get together on Sundays for dinner. You know we live in different spots so we all come together Sunday and it’s just not going to be the same.”
Chief Master Sgt. James M. Traficante is a member of the Connecticut Air National Guard's 103rd Airlift Wing. When the plane crashed, he sprung into action, heroically helping other passengers to get off the plane. He was taken to Hartford Hospital for treatment and officials say he is recovering.
The NTSB is investigating the crash.
Members of the NTSB family assistance division are available to help connect the families with the resources they need.
The NTSB is asking anyone with information, pictures or video to email firstname.lastname@example.org.